How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book? [Discussion]

For a more in-depth look at self-publishing costs, check out How Much Does Self-Publishing Cost? The Ultimate Guide.

One of the most common questions we’re asked from authors looking into self-publishing is: how much does it cost? The truth is, the costs of self-publishing vary wildly and are highly dependent on which publishing route you take (eBook vs POD vs traditional printing), your personal skills and abilities (can you design your own cover or interior layout?) and a myriad of other factors that are as individual as the author herself.

So, we want to hear from our author friends: how much does it cost to self-publish a book? Tell us:

  • Approximately how much have you spent on all phases of publishing your book (editing, design, publishing, marketing, etc)?
  • What format was your book published in (eBook/print/both)?
  • Where did you spend the most money? Was it worth it?
  • Looking back, where do you wish you spent MORE?
  • What cost more than you originally anticipated? What cost less?
  • Time is money, too — how much total time do you think you’ve spent on your book? Include all phases of publishing, or break it down into phases.
  • Was your investment worth it (in terms of money, time or both)?

To join the discussion, please leave a comment below addressing any (or all) of the above questions. Also, mention the discussion to your indie author friends — we’d love to get varied input! Note: We know that money is a super-personal issue, so, of course, just share whatever insight and information you feel comfortable with.

What do you think?

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  • http://hccummings.wordpress.com Hans Cummings (@hccummings)

    1. Total, I spent about $1,500 to publish my debut novel. $600 for cover art, $350 for editing, $100 for interior art, the rest on ISBN #s, copywrite registration, advertising and other promotional expenditures.
    2. I published in both e-book & print (via CreateSpace)
    3. As indicated, I spent the most money on Cover Art. Comments from reviewers indicate that, perhaps, that money could’ve been more wisely spent.
    4. I wish I’d spent less on the cover and more on editing.
    5. I got multiple quotes for everything I hired someone to do, so there was nothing that cost more than I expected.
    6. I didn’t keep very detailed records of my time, but it probably was at least 150 hours from inception to publication, not counting the time it was out of my hands while I was at the mercy of my editor or cover artists.
    7. It was worth in in that one of the hardest steps is done (get a book out there). I can now consider myself published, I have gotten 2 royalty checks (small, but still), and I learned several very valuable lessons. Sure, in hindsight, I would do some things differently. But I can’t go back, so I can only learn from those mistakes as I move forward into the future.

  • http://saraflower.wordpress.com/ Sara

    It also only cost me a little over $1500. $80 for my cover art and book marks, $1200 for the editor, $200 for the book formatting, $60 to register my publishing company name. I still have to register the ISBNs and some advertising which wont be too much more.

    So affordable! :)

  • http://danasitar.com Dana Sitar

    Wow – I am shocked at these numbers! (And wondering if I will ever be able to break into this business with so little money to spend.)

    I haven’t spent any money on the creation process — I know professional editors and designers who are willing to help me out, and I’ve educated myself in design enough to get by.

    I will have to spend $250 to print a batch of books for my launch week events, but after that they’ll be POD.

    The greatest cost I’m encountering (other than my time, which I can hardly estimate) is in promotion. Some things I won’t do for now because of the cost, but the amount of money that potentially goes into traveling, flyers, posters, postcards, bookmarks, and other bling, plus just plain paid ad spots is quite a bit.

    • Toni

      I can totally sympathize with you, Dana (and, big thanks for Sara and Hans for the full disclosure). The hill can seem insurmountable, but there are definitely ways to do it for less. Maybe that’ll give us some fodder for an upcoming post (or perhaps a frugal indie author could help us out with an entry in the Self-Publishing Writing Contest). One positive of deciding to self-publish while still in the writing process is that, for most authors, it gives you plenty of time to save up! Remember, too, with selfpub YOU control all the profits. So while there may be an upfront cost, you’ll most certainly make more off of each book sold than a tradpub author would!

  • http://www.avHarrison-publishing.com Emily Hill

    I spent the following amounts on my debut novel, “Jenkins: Confederate Blockade Runner” fourteen months ago:

    Book Doctor/editing ($300 + $700) $1000
    Book Cover (home made cover bombed! = $400 to go Pro
    ISBN (set of three) $105
    Copyright $35

    Here’s where I made my BIGGEST mistake:
    Google Ads $800 (sadly true)
    *An author with an audience doesn’t need to pay for ads!

    My advice: Go Pro on editing and book cover – you can only debut each book ONCE, a second roll-out translates to “Oops!” every time!

    A dork book cover (with ‘square insets’ for photos)next to a Hachette book cover will not garner success. It’s competition at EVERY level!

    Start building your audience NOW! I am so impressed with two authors: Zoe Winters and Mike Wells. Two totally different writers, but how they woo their audience sparkles!

    Emily Hill, IndiePub Coach
    Author ‘Self Publishing for Smart Cookies’ (book and on-line course.)

  • http://www.dittymac.blogspot.com Virginia Llorca

    My only costs have been for some Getty Images for covers.

  • Jack

    As my own Waterloo approaches this information was much appreciated, but your picture of that Kansas City roll was what really brought it home for me. It underscored the pitfalls of ill-conceived expenditures. For even more effect next time use a C note on the outside of those singles.

  • http://www.thefictionhole.com Jay Taylor

    I did it for $125… For the eBook version. About to spend another $125 for the printed version. That money is to pay for a real ISBN, one for eBook and one for physical book.

    I own a digital sketch pad, laptop and software. I created my own book. I edited my own book. I published it through multiple sites such as Amazon, BN and Smashwords. It is doing OK. But I am a first time author and realize it will take a few months to gain traction. So my total out of pocket is about $250. I intentionally kept it low.

  • http://moonbridgebooks.com Linda Austin

    Published a memoir in 2005, 2nd edition in 2007 to cover the oops factors. First edition did my own cover (oops), got an ex-grammar teacher/librarian friend to edit free, got a local printer to do 200 copies (oops). It cost $800 plus set of 10 ISBNs plus small $ for fees to create my own business, used Amazon Advantage (necessary bad move). 2007 edition cost $300 for a professional cover and some interior work. Printing is now extremely low-cost via digital-on-demand Lightning Source (set up $100?), which has automatic excellent distribution everywhere through Ingrams. All online marketing for free, emailed media releases to local newspapers (it worked). While I have good editing skills and my book has no typos and flows well, I’d definitely pay for an editor if I decided to write another book, esp if it were fiction. I did the cover art, but never will I try to design my own cover again!

  • http://queendsheena.blogspot.com/ Sheena-kay Graham

    I only spent $5 (US) on getting a custom cover on Fiverr. My ebook ‘Rachael Becoming Red’ will be out by February 20, 2012 on Smashwords (and hopefully Nook and Barnes&Noble).

  • Judas Coffix

    is this as a group of books or just one, i’m trying to manufacture only one… yikes! kinda costly 

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